Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
home iconInspiring Stories
line break icon

Olympic medalist wins against Nike in favor of motherhood


Af85 | Instagram | Fair Use

Matthew Green - Dolors Massot - published on 09/11/19

Allyson Felix and other female athletes put pressure on the sportswear giant, and were heard.

Allyson Felix is one of the best sprinters in the world. She has nine Olympic medals, the last two of which she won at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. According to ESPN, this makes her the “most decorated woman track and field star in U.S. Olympic history.”

In recent years, Felix has been the protagonist of publicity campaigns for Nike. Nevertheless, when she decided to become a mother in 2018, Nike turned its back on her.

Maternity as a priority

Felix’s contract with Nike expired at the end of 2017, and she began negotiations to renew her relationship with the company. In May 2018, she found out she was pregnant, and gave birth on November 28 to a precious little girl to whom she and her husband, Kenneth Ferguson, gave the name Camryn.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Allyson Felix (@allysonfelix)

On December 20, just a few weeks after her baby’s birth, Felix published a long article on ESPN’s web page in which she revealed details of her pregnancy, which had ended with an emergency C-section.

She said she knew that becoming a mother could affect her running career, but she was “up for it.” She was tired of trying to live up to other people’s expectations, including that she should always “put running first.” She needed to be herself, and to be guided by higher priorities. “I’m trying to be open to what God has in store for me and my family,” she says in the article.

No protection for mothers

Sure enough, when the time came to renew her contract with Nike, the company offered her a contract with a 70% pay cut, because she might not run as much or as fast while recuperating from her pregnancy. She felt the need to push for contractual protection as a mother, asking Nike to “contractually guarantee that I wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth.”

She revealed this when she decided to follow the example of other women athletes who had become mothers, Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, and publicly denounce Nike’s practice of cutting pay to mothers. She published an op-ed piece in the New York Times in May of this year. At that point, as a result of the other athletes’ articles, Nike had promised to revise its contracts to protect women athletes during pregnancy, but the company had yet to reveal specifics.

Victory off the track

On August 12, Felix and her fellow athletes won their battle. Nike sent out an email signed by John Slusher, Executive Vice President of Global Sports Marketing for Nike, in which he announced the inclusion of a maternal protection clause in its contract with women athletes. Felix shared the email on her Instagram account, which has more than 600,000 followers:

The clause reads: “If ATHLETE becomes pregnant, NIKE may not apply any performance-related reductions (if any) for a consecutive period of 18 months, beginning eight months prior to ATHLETE’S due date. During such period NIKE may not apply any right of termination (if any) as a result of ATHLETE not competing due to pregnancy.”

In the text accompanying the photo of the email, Felix celebrates the fact that she and her colleagues had managed to make Nike change the way it treats women. She also thanks all the brands who have made similar commitments.

The power of women speaking out

In her text, Felix also wrote, “Our voices have power. NIKE has joined in officially and contractually providing maternal protection to the female athletes they sponsor. This means that female athletes will no longer be financially penalized for having a child.”

Still, Allyson Felix is no longer being sponsored by Nike. She recently decided to sign a contract with a different company, Athleta.

She continues to show that her professional career is important to her, but she is not willing to renounce motherhood. On her official website, her description includes, “Allyson has accomplished so much, but her greatest accomplishment and her greatest love is her daughter, Camryn, who reminds her every day that she can never stop fighting for what is right in this world.”

Read more:
10 Olympic athletes who were not afraid to share their faith

Serena Williams

Read more:
Serena Williams’ career decision makes an important statement about motherhood

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.